Tuesday, 11 May 2021 / Published in Analysis

The chart below from Goldman Sachs research shows that short interest for the S&P 500 Index are at all-time lows. In other words, those that are betting on the index falling, are a very rare breed. 

Many years ago, this chart would have been interpreted as a contrarian indicator. The logic being that, with record bullishness everywhere, it’s probably time to sell. However, this time around I think we have to take this data at face value. And that is none other than a bullish indication.  



The reason why short interest is probably so low, is not for a lack of institutional investors who think that markets cannot go down, but probably because they have been squeezed out of their positions in attempting to do so.  

With liquidity continuously coming into the market from all sides (Central banks and physical spending), it is no wonder equities keep going up. 

Also keep in mind that bonds, especially sovereign debt, is not an option for most institutional investors. If institutions want yield, they will not find it in debt, unless they want to take on a lot of risk. And when searching for yield, equities are probably the route at the current time.  

The bottom line is that all roads continue to lead to equities. The record low short interest is probably a testimony to this. And contrary to the past, a record short interest currently cannot be interpreted as a contrary indicator, but has to be interpreted at face value, that being that is still a very bullish market. 

Tuesday, 11 May 2021 / Published in Analysis

While major indices don’t show it, and most investors don’t see it, many parts of the technology sector are crashing. And by that, I mean that many stocks have been falling for months now, even if this internal technology correction has not affected the major indices (yet). 

Almost all EV stocks are way off their highs, perhaps with TESLA having corrected the least. Even highly covered and talked about stocks like Quantum Scape, that is developing a next generation battery for EV cars has gone from about $130 to $28. AMD had its best quarter ever and has fallen about 15% from its last report. Even Apple has not been able to rally, even if its quarter blew the consensus away. ZM has fallen over 50% from its highs, and DOCU which reached almost $300 a share last year, is trading at around $190.  

In fact, perhaps a better illustration of what has been happening is the ARKK EFT, that has many of the high flying names mentioned above.   

The ARKK ETF has lost about 1/3 of its value from its high, and down about 20% year to date. 

The question is, is this technology correction over and might many of these stocks be a buy? 

My answer is no. Even after a huge correction, most of these names are still not investable. The reason being valuation concerns. In my book, stocks like AMD and ZM would have to fall by an additional 60% or so, before valuations make any sense.  

The next question is, will the correction in technology bring the entire market down? The answer is we don’t know, but so far, the major indices are not showing signs of stress (yet).   

However, if stocks like Apple make a serious correction, then all bets are off. The market will probably correct by a lot. But in order for that to happen, we would have to see a lot of money exiting this market, especially from passive funds.  

And what might be the reason for a rush to the exists from investors? Two things come to mind these days, inflation and an increase in capital gain taxes in the US.  

However, don’t blame the correction on neither of these issues. At its core, the correction we are seeing in the technology space has everything to do with valuations and investors getting carried away than anything else.  

Tuesday, 30 March 2021 / Published in Analysis

As we have said many times over the past several months, while the market as a whole is not in bubble territory, many parts of the market are. In particular, the technology sector is as expensive as I have ever seen.

In fact, one of my worries has been that when the technology sector did correct, it might bring down the entire market. The good news is that this has not happened, and the market overall is holding up.

This in my mind means two things. The first is that the bull market is still intact. The second is that the rotation we have been seeing over the past several months seems to be enough (at least for now) to prevent a general market correction, even as many of the high-flying technology names correct or do nothing.

Also, the fact that the high PE and High Price/Sales stocks are correcting , should also bring down the market multiple over the next few quarters, which is a good thing.

This in turn should be good for active managed portfolios and less for passive portfolios or passive investment instruments.

Finally, this also means the liquidity wave we have been riding since the beginning of the pandemic is alive and well, but investors have to change strategy and find new winners.

Like the old wall street saying goes, never fight the Fed or never fight the central bank as I say. And with the Fed still purchasing 120 billion in assets every month, this liquidity wave is still alive and well.

Thursday, 11 March 2021 / Published in Analysis

A short while ago I questioned if 2021 might be a sell the COVID 19 vaccine news trade. I said it probably won’t, because central banks will keep pumping liquidity. However, a new twist is now unfolding, and that is higher bond yields.  

For example, 10-year US government bonds yields have risen to 1.5%, and the 30-year yield is now at around 2.20%, with most yields in other major markets also increasing.  

In my mind, irrespective if inflation comes back, as most think it will, I find it hard to believe that the long end of sovereign debt can increase by a lot without central banks intervening. This because the interest cost to governments will rise substantially, something that will make an already bad fiscal situation much worse.  

So, the question is, can central banks bring down long dated bonds if they want to? The answer is yes, and I think they will do just that at some point. But the even more important question is, how might markets react to such a development? The answer is we don’t really know, because on the one hand we will have inflation and higher growth because of a COVID vaccine, but yields will not be reflecting such a reality, as they have in the past. 

My guess is that if markets start correcting, central banks will communicate that they will start buying longer dated bonds to keep yields down to avoid markets correcting by much. But the truth is we don’t know how markets will react to such a reality, irrespective of what central banks say and do. But until we see price action to the contrary, we have to keep trusting an old Wall Street saying that says never fight the Fed, or generally speaking, never fight Central Banks.  

For example, 10-year US government bonds yields have risen to 1.5%, and the 30-year yield is now at around 2.20%, with most yields in other major markets also increasing.  

In my mind, irrespective if inflation comes back, as most think it will, I find it hard to believe that the long end of sovereign debt can increase by a lot without central banks intervening. This because the interest cost to governments will rise substantially, something that will make an already bad fiscal situation much worse.  

So, the question is, can central banks bring down long dated bonds if they want to? The answer is yes, and I think they will do just that at some point. But the even more important question is, how might markets react to such a development? The answer is we don’t really know, because on the one hand we will have inflation and higher growth because of a COVID vaccine, but yields will not be reflecting such a reality, as they have in the past. 

My guess is that if markets start correcting, central banks will communicate that they will start buying longer dated bonds to keep yields down to avoid markets correcting by much. But the truth is we don’t know how markets will react to such a reality, irrespective of what central banks say and do. But until we see price action to the contrary, we have to keep trusting an old Wall Street saying that says never fight the Fed, or generally speaking, never fight Central Banks.  

Tuesday, 23 February 2021 / Published in Analysis

When 100% of outstanding shares are shorted in any stock, you get a sort of a black hole short interest phenomenon. In other words, even if someone covers his shorts, someone comes on top and shorts even more shares. Very soon more than 100% of all outstanding shares are sold short and covering becomes impossible, because there are no available shares to be covered. More or less, that is what happened in the case of Gamestop.

But Gamestop is not the only heavy shorted stock. There are many more than meets the eye. And it’s not just stocks that are heavily shorted, EFTs are shorted also. For example, according to an article from the Motley Fool site (link here) the SPDR S&P Biotech EFT (XBI) has a short interest of 103%%, the SPDR S&P Oil & Gas Exploration & Production ETF (XOP) is shorted to the tune of 91% and the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) has a short-interest ratio of 465% recently. Yes you heard right, 465%. The ETF has 2.6 million shares outstanding with more than 12 million shares short. In comparison, the short interest of Gamestop as f Feb 5 was 89%.

The question is, are seasoned professionals right in shorting these securities so much? The answer is yes and no. Professional investors and managers know all too well that any mania can’t last forever, however a speculative mania can last longer than anyone imagines, and stocks can rise for no reason, or much more than thought possible. In other words, as Keynes correctly said, markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.

The bottom line is that we are witnessing a market like no other in history. A speculative frenzy I have never seen before, and a market that behaves irrational in every respect.

I am not sure how this ends or how long it will last, but I am sure that in the end, irrationality will be punished, and prudence rewarded.